The free ride is over for anyone mooching Amazon Prime from friends or extended family, as a new policy restricts how subscribers can share their benefits.
Under the old policy, Amazon Prime subscribers could share free shipping benefits with up to four other adults. Invitees simply had to provide their name, birthday, e-mail address and relationship to the account holder, and could then purchase items through Prime with their own payment methods. (Sharing of other benefits, such as Prime Instant Video, wasn't allowed.)
The new policy, first discovered by AFTVnews, requires Prime subscribers to create an "Amazon Households" account to share their benefits. This account limits shipping benefits to two adults, who must share all of their payment methods with one another. The idea is that you'd only share with the one person you trust not to go on a shopping spree with your credit card.
It's not all bad news, however. Under a Households account, both adults can access Amazon Prime Instant Video (though only one stream is allowed at a time) and Kindle Owners' Lending Library, and can share the benefits of an Amazon Mom subscription. A Households account also allows parents to share books and other content with up to four children through their Family Library.
The policy change also cracks down on small businesses that might have been sharing their benefits among employees. As TechCrunch notes, it seems Amazon is pushing corporate customers toward Amazon Business accounts, which provide free two-day shipping on orders of $49 or more, but don't include other Prime benefits such as Instant Video streaming.
Why this matters: Amazon never intended for Prime members to share their benefits outside of a single household, though it was never particularly difficult to use the service that way. The policy change comes a little over a year after Amazon raised the price of Prime subscriptions from $79 to $99 per year, with the company citing higher fuel and transportation costs.